The only way to end Eating Disorders is to end the WAR on “obesity”

 

While reading my Instagram feed during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I have been inspired by the recovery conversations. I have seen memes, blog posts, and heard podcasts empowering us to advocate for the changes in how we view eating disorders.

Eating disorders don’t fit the stereotypes. I admit I used to recognize eating disorders in just thin white teen girls. Don’t make the same mistake!

Eating disorders come in all sizes, all genders and gender identities, all ethnicities, and all backgrounds. You cannot tell if someone is experiencing an eating disorder by looking at someone.

Never.

I met with my first client affected by an eating disorder in 1999. Since then modern science has been able to connect so many dots to allow us to better understand eating disorders.

Here’s what we know:

  • there is a genetic link to eating disorders. Just like someone with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism avoiding alcohol, those with certain genetic traits should avoid certain behaviors to help avoid setting themselves up for an eating disorder. Does this guarantee no eating disorder will occur?? No and it does set up a protection from it and brings down the likelihood.
  • Which behaviors should be avoided? Dieting, pursuing weight loss, and/or manipulating food to promote weight outcomes. Diets have been found in research to predict eating disorder behaviors.
  • While not everyone who diets gets an eating disorder, diets set a person up for metabolic long term consequences like high cholesterol, high insulin, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides. These consequences are connected to weight cycling, that yo-yo effect from going on a diet and losing weight, then regaining the weight, then dieting again.
  • Most people experience some sort of disordered eating because of diet culture. We are taught at an early age that fat is bad and we should eat to avoid it all costs.

I like to imagine a world free of eating disorders and disordered eating. Imagine everyone experiencing this earth free from food and weight worries? Imagine what we would do if we didn’t have to worry about our weight, or what we would eat and not each day?

Imagine how much shit we would get done.

While we are dreaming, let’s work back a bit toward reality. What would be different in this eating disorder free world? What could we bring from this dream land to make it more like our current world?

I know what would be different.

We would no longer be fighting obesity.

We would not consider certain bodies “an epidemic” with billions emptied into eradicating these bad bodies.

We would no longer make judgements based on sight to predict health, intelligence, and worth.

Tap. Tap.

I need to check into your dream world for a second. Let’s be sure we are on the same page.

Be sure to note this dream world is NOT full of skinny people.

It is not full of people with BMIs of less than 25. or 30. or 40.

This lower BMI world is still FULL of eating disorder. More disordered than currently.

No longer fighting obesity to end eating disorders doesn’t mean no more fat people.

No longer fighting obesity means we catch up with science and decency:

No longer fighting obesity means we stop fighting bodies.

No longer fighting obesity means we honor size diversity.

No longer fighting obesity means appreciating health comes in every size.

And every size should exist. Every size should have access to care, education, employment.

Every size is celebrated for the soul it carries.

We will only find solutions to end eating disorders and disordered eating if we end fat phobia.

Why?

  • Making size a moot point will eliminate the need for diets. Eliminating the need and industry for diets will prevent those with the genetic predisposition for an eating disorder from as easy access to the pathology.
  • Recovering from an eating disorder means abstaining from diets. How can one abstain from diets when culture dictates that dieting is normal eating or pursuing weight loss is healthy? With diets no longer in style, healthy eating will include eating for self-care, variety, and satiety.
  • Fear of gaining weight is a significant part of the eating disorder experience. Unfortunately, our world normalizes and justifies this fear because of health misinformation, confirmation bias, and fat phobia. Eliminating this cultural fear of fat will help those recovering to do the same. Honestly, I cannot imagine anyone able to recover from this part of their eating disorder until this is eradicated.
  • Many people have a body who’s preferred weight is higher than the cultural norm. Try recovering from an eating disorder yet your eating disorder team says your weight is too high? Huh?? Yes it happens and way too often. Fat phobia within the eating disorder field is abundant and this prevents those needing to be at a higher weight from full recovery.

There are more reasons and time is short while I type this. I want to push publish before I pick up my kids from school 🙂 So I am leaving this incomplete until I can add more. Maybe you want to add more too? Shoot me an email (julie@juliedillonrd.com) and I will add yours, crediting your thoughts. ✌🏾

The Should Eat Fantasy Compliance

How many diets have you been on? When was the first one? Most women have been dieting in some shape or form….or coming off a diet…or preparing to go back on a diet….for as long as they can remember.

Can you relate?

I believe we live in a culture that has trained us to distrust our bodies and think we need to follow orders to pick out dinner options. 

We should be eating this. We should be eating that. We must not eat this after 7, or else…

Or else what?

All these shoulds lead most of us toward shame, guilt and distrust of our own innate wisdom. You were born knowing how to eat and how much. All those diets disconnected you from that. 

You may be wondering, “But I feel so good when I am dieting, at least for a little while.”

Totally. Diets and preparing for them give the notion that things will be alright soon. Just the decision to embark on a diet can relax and calm you. Your head may feel clear for the first time in a long time.

The first few days or weeks of a diet can give off a buzz of excitement and kudos from well-meaning friends and family.

Can you feel it? That’s diet seduction.

And it is just a fantasy.

The reality is diets are only short term. They are unsustainable. This is not just a belief of mine rather evidenced-based in literally hundreds of research studies.

So why do you blame yourself for the diet ending?

If diets don’t work for most people, why do doctors and dietitians recommend them?

If diets are actually harmful long term…promoting weight cycling, higher insulin levels, higher tryglycerides, higher blood sugars, depression, and negative body image….why are they recommended to improve health?

Those are important questions with a really nasty answer:

The world is so fat phobic that it cannot wrap its head around the notion that weight loss is not a behavior. And, medical science has yet to find ONE diet that works to promote health and promote maintanence long term for most people. Even more, this mind control is rooted in white supremacy and misogyny.

You see how people of size are treated in our world: chairs don’t fit, airplanes won’t accomodate, and culture hasn’t provided equal treatment in academia, the military, or employment.

This constant discrimination sends anyone trying to find a way to fit in. To find more ease in a world that says their body is not acceptable.

A fat body dieting is complying with the orders: eat this not that. Do all that it takes to weigh less. Even if it hurts.

And each time you comply with the orders, the fantasy of equal treatment and a better life fill your head.

This is The Should Eat Fantasy Compliance.

This is the reason why you keep getting sucked back into Diet Culture and it is so important. You are just doing what you are told while craving equality and decency.

Unfortunately The Should Eat Fantasy Compliance distracts us all from the facts that diets don’t work for most people and they are harmful. It also distracts us from the biogtry that comes from weight stigma, racism, and gender inequality. 

I want to stand with you radically rejecting diets and reconnecting to your own innate wisdom for health.

This week’s Love Food podcast episode (107) is one of my all time favorites because it gives you the tools to stand up to the villain. In this episode I go through the 4 pillars to Food Peace: permission, pleasure, consistency, and variety. Take a listen here or via your favorite pod catcher.

Until then, call out the real villain. And take off that shame cloak. It is not for you. It never was.

 

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help.

Listen to the Love Food podcast and find new ways to rewrite your fate with food and body.

You can find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, your fav pod catcher or right here.

Wake Up Weight Watchers

I have been off the figurative grid the last few weeks to reboot. And, on a whim when I momentarily had wifi, I scrolled through Instagram only to see the horrifying news:

Weight Watchers, the diet company that has already stolen so much time, money, and self-compassion from us, is giving away memberships to teens this summer. 

Why is Weight Watchers choosing to give away memberships??

To teach body dissatisfaction?

To suck more innocent children into the hell of an eating disorder?

To help teens start a life of self blame for weight cycling?

To help promote weight gain?

Diets to Eating Disorders

Too many people have told me their life long and life threatening eating disorder started as a teen walking into Weight Watchers. Often they walked in with their mothers. Or, after the recommendation from their doctor.

As fellow dietitian Laura Thomas says, “Not everyone who goes on a diet gets an eating disorder yet everyone with an eating disorder has gone on a diet.” 

We know eating disorders have a genetic link and going on a diet is all it takes to start the ball rolling for an eating disorder to be born. Think of someone with alcoholism in their family, taking their first drink and that starts an abusive relationship with alcohol. 

Teaching diets to those with the genetic disposition for an eating disorder sets them up to experience the mental illness with the highest mortality rate.

You may be saying….But, Julie, we need to worry about teens with diabetes and eating disorders are rare.

12 in 100,000 children have Type 2 Diabetes (Writings Group et al., “Incidence of Diabetes”) yet 2900 in 100,000 children experience an eating disorder*. Statistically, we need to worry more about eating disorders than increased adiposity.

You may be saying….But, we need to do something about the obesity epidemic. At least Weight Watchers is doing something.

Diets like Weight Watchers are doing something: making us sicker and they don’t work. 

Show me the data from any diet study (including any Weight Watchers research) that keeps weight off long term (that’s at least 2 years) for most people. THERE AREN’T ANY. Somehow diet companies sell a product, make 60 billion dollars a year, the product fails for most people, and the failure is PART of the PLAN. The diet companies KNOW their products don’t work and have convinced us we the people are at fault. 

You know what data we do have? That diets don’t work for most people. As Deb Burgard says, “We need to call the diet industry the weight cycling industry.” Weight cycling raises cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, insulin, blood sugar. The more we diet, or weight cycle, the more we weigh.

Huh?

Diets predict weight gain and eating disorders. 

So why in all H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks can Weight Watchers sell a product to our young precious children? How is this safe? Or legal? Or ethical? Or moral?

Why are we ok with this?

I love what my colleague Rebecca Scritchfield has to say about this Weight Watchers announcement in a recent Washington Post article. 

How can we stop this harm?

Consider signing this Change.org plea to stop this Weight Watchers campaign.

Do you have children that you worry about their eating or weight? 

Listen to this recent Love Food Podcast episode I did with my colleague Anna Lutz. She gives amazing insight.

Are you a fat teen?

Hello. I want you to know I see you. I don’t want you to change. You are acceptable as you are right now. You deserve to feel at home in your own skin and not torture yourself with a diet. Weight Watchers is a diet that doesn’t work for most people. Did you know you can trust your body to promote health? You have hunger, fullness, and satiety that let you know what your body needs. Don’t believe any diet sheet or think following points should dictate your worth. You are worthy already. That’s the point.

You don’t need them. 

But, we need you. 

Getting sucked into Weight Watchers or any other diet will only distract you from all that you bring to this world. 

Please don’t try to shrink yourself. Take up space. All that you want and need. I want to hear you and see you.

We need you not the points.

Warmly,

Julie

Here’s the footnote in case you dig that research stuff:

*K.R. Merikangas et al. “Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in US Adolescents: Results from the National Comborbitity Survey Replication-Adolescent Supplement.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 49, no. 10 (2010): 980-9.​

Weight Loss Isn’t the Answer for your PCOS

Kimberly Singh, Julie’s resident nutrition grad student ⇢also affected by PCOS!⇠ is back to blogging on PCOS topics. Enjoy!

It’s that time of the year again.

Everyone is revving their engines to prepare for a new lifestyle filled with vegetables and water.

They are starting their elimination diets and shaming their prior self for indulging in things like sugar and bread (gasp).

As they start this new lifestyle with blind optimism, they are sure this time will be different.

Not like last January, or the one before that, and so on. In a few weeks to months the craze will wear off, and most dieters will be back to eating sugar and whatever else they currently deem unhealthy trash.

Sound familier?

If you have PCOS this is probably a familiar cycle.

You already know the shame and pressure to change your body’s size through restrictive dieting and rigid exercise. 

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?

Julie can show you how! Get on the wait list here.

As if society’s pressure to shrink yourself wasn’t bad enough, you probably have doctors promising you that all of your PCOS nightmares will end when you drop the weight.

Who wouldn’t want that?

They paint this beautiful picture of your PCOS symptoms vanishing with the proper amount of restriction. If you just do it right and long enough you will be practically cured.

However, they fail to warn you about the increased risk of eating disorders and weight cycling among dieting women with PCOS. They rarely ask about a history of binge eating disorder, which is common in women with PCOS. And last but not least, they fail to warn you that dieting causes you to ignore your body’s internal method of regulation.

Diets inherently tell you to ignore your body and listen to the blanket of shame that society throws on people of size. 

Healthcare professionals prescribe weight loss for PCOS as an ultimate solution, ignoring the weight cycling that usually accompanies the PCOS experience. The reckless prescription of restrictive diets to a population at an increased risk of eating disorders causes harm to women with PCOS.

Not only does dieting lead to weight gain (the literal opposite of what PCOS dieters expect) but it also poorly affects their health.

Diets discourage people from knowing how to use food as fuel for their bodies. Julie finds that by urging her clients to observe reactions to different foods, they are able to identify how to best energize their bodies and manage their PCOS.

Women with PCOS get energy from food in a different way from others, and by turning down the volume on dieting, they are able to better hear what their bodies prefer. I have found it to be helpful to log how I feel 1-3 hours after eating different foods. 

Dieting can seem so appealing, especially for those of us with PCOS. It promises a whole new shiny life-a better version of yourself that is lingering inside of you and waiting to be released.

It can even sound like the only solution to your PCOS, but it is not.

You are the only solution. 

You have the internal wisdom to guide yourself to health and happiness, and don’t let diet culture tell you otherwise.

As the new year begins, I urge you to ditch your diet. I urge you to stop restricting. Stop listening to messages about weight loss filled with shame, and start listening to your body.

Here are some of my favorite resources when diet culture has me in the dumps:

  • Weight-neutral podcasts: some of my favorites are Love Food, Dietitians Unplugged, Food Psych, She’s all Fat.
  • Lindy West’s writing has a great balance of humor and realness of the fat experience.
  • Intuitive Eating (<–this is an affiliate link) is a must-have. It will help you unlearn diets.
  • And last but not least: myself! When I am present and grounded with myself, I know that diets are not right. Self-compassion and mindfulness help me get through my toughest moments.

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?

Julie can show you how! Get on the wait list here.

Jeanes, Y. M., Reeves, S., Gibson, E. L., Piggott, C., May, V. A., & Hart, K. H. (2017). Binge eating behaviours and food cravings in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Appetite, 109(Supplement C), 24–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2016.11.010

Lee, I., Cooney, L. G., Saini, S., Smith, M. E., Sammel, M. D., Allison, K. C., & Dokras, A. (2017). Increased risk of disordered eating in polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertility and Sterility, 107(3), 796–802. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.12.014

Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A.-M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220–233. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220

Morosi, A., & Jeanes, Y. (2017). Food cravings, binge eating and emotional eating behaviours in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 76(OCE1). https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665117000155

When relying on hunger is too scary

When relying on-3

 

Does the idea of relying on your hunger and fullness cues freak you out? Seem waaaay too scary? Please hang on. This post is for you. And, be sure to know you are not alone.

I can’t stop thinking about food!

Attuned eating is letting go of distractions and relying on your hunger, fullness, and satiety cues to guide eating instead of rigid diets. Some people also call it Intuitive Eating (check out the brand new workbook edition here it is fabulous). If your brain thinks about food, eating, and their rules most of the day, attuned eating will feel a bit premature. We often call this way of thinking food preoccupation. I see it as food rules have taken your brain hostage. The way out of this crisis is to retrain your brain to not think about food. All. The. Time.

Before you look into brain surgeons, know we have tools outside of the operating room. And, all you need to do the work includes a way to know time (either your watch, cell phone, or the sun), a shelf stable snack of your choice, and patience. Bring lots of patience.

Disconnecting from hunger makes us think more about food

We get disconnected from our hunger cues because our brains have been distracted by food rules, not prioritizing self-care, and emotional dysregulation. If you are disconnected from hunger, there was a time when you were not. There was a time when your body consistently provided the information you needed to eat adequately. Diets and other means to learn food rules disconnected you. So does a chaotic life with little self-care. If you are running around like a chicken with a head cut off, then you are not stopping to eat when hungry nor pee when need to pee. (That’s for all my nurses and teachers…talking to you!)

You also get disconnected if you are used to feeling certain emotions and reaching for food. Emotional eating is a touchy word in my book because everyone emotionally eats. It is human and part of cultural connections. And healthy. What I am talking about though is when a person feels an emotion, whether uncomfortable or warm fuzzy, and the brain automatically feels connection with certain foods. I like to call this symbolic hunger discussed in another post.

How do we rewire our noggins?

Diets, lack of self-care, and emotional dysregulation can all disconnect your hunger and make your brain over think about food. To retrain your brain, practice these steps over the next 2 to 4 weeks:

Pick your check in times.

What time do you wake up? Now set an alarm on your phone for every two to three hours after this time throughout the whole day. If you don’t use a smart phone, pencil it in your calendar. These times are your check in times.

Go through the check in routine.

Within the first hour of being awake and every check in time, go through this routine: take 3 deep breaths and ask yourself: “What do I need right now?” By what do I need I am referring to anything. If nothing surfaces ask these:

Do I need to pee?

What am I feeling?

Am I hot or cold?

Do I want or need to eat?

What to do about food at check in times?

At each check in time, give yourself permission to eat outside of physical hunger. If you are not feeling hunger cues, you need to eat at some point (hello, you are human!). By doing this, you will reset your circadian eating rhythms which will gradually reset your hunger cues to be consistently noticeable.

What to do about food outside of check in times?

When craving to eat or binge outside of check in times practice gently saying: “I am craving food right now. It is symbolic hunger. I can have as much as I want or need at the next check in time.” If you find yourself not able to wait, please forgive yourself and move on. Those who are successful at this part of the process are folks who keep trying. So dust yourself off and look to the next check in time. It will get easier after more practice.

What to expect

Practice these check in times over the next 2 to 4 weeks. Remember to be extra kind to yourself and forgive when making mistakes. Everyone does during this process. After a few weeks, your brain will start to get used to a rhythm from the check in times and eating times. More space will occur outside of eating and hunger cues will begin to percolate to the surface. And when they do, welcome them home. Let hunger know you won’t be ignoring it anymore rather wanting to get to know its purpose.

Let me know when you start to experience the hunger cues coming back. It is an exciting reuniting process!

 

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Want a guide to partner with you on your Food Peace journey? I want to help. Check out my podcast and I hope it illuminates the direction you want to go.